COLUMN: Cottages for Kids is something to smile about

Published: Monday, November 19, 2012 at 05:16 PM.

I have a very real and completely irrational anxiety about visiting the dentist.

While I have healthy teeth, and generally expect good results at my cleanings, the very thought of the appointment gives me heart palpations and sends me into a cold sweat. I try to put on a brave face so my kids don’t develop the same phobia and dutifully pack us off to the dentist twice a year.

For many families in Okaloosa and Walton County, regular dental appointments aren’t a chore or an anxiety-inducing errand — instead they are a luxury they can’t afford.

Sixty percent of children in Walton County do not have health insurance. This makes routine dental care, like yearly teeth cleaning, out of reach for many family budgets.

Without regular oral care, small, isolated pockets of tooth decay can spread, not only causing pain and an increased risk of infection, but also contributing to speech problems and adversely affecting nutrition and overall growth and development.

In 2005, The Children’s Volunteer Health network was launched, providing preventative dental, medical, vision, and mental health care to the un- and underinsured children in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Since then, more than 2,500 children have been treated, thanks to the network of doctors and dentists who volunteer their time and expertise to meet immediate medical needs. Last year, through the CVHN mobile dental clinic, 576 Walton County elementary school children were treated.

Their treatment program includes a cleaning, fluoride treatment, X rays, and sealants when appropriate.

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